Monique podiums at back to back 70.3's

Attitude Determines Altitude

Master in Education Research…Part-time working at NMU…working at my father’s business…being a stepmother…fiancé and triathlete is no easy task. I have always been a woman who worried less about fitting into a glass slipper and more about shattering glass ceilings as my attitude determines my altitude. Embarking on my first back to back race I was not quite sure what I was getting myself into but I knew that as long as I believe in my own capabilities I can achieve my goal.

Setting my sight on the famous world championship coin, especially seeing that is was in my own home town Port Elizabeth. I knew this would not be easily accomplished because my newly entered age group has very strong competition and everyone would be grasping for those slots. I knew I needed to have a fall back plan in place because I was determined to race on my home turf. As luck would have it I managed to obtain a slot at Durban 70.3 and the stress was alleviated, but knowing the person I was, I set a new goal…Achieving AWA Gold Athlete status for the second year running and so Bintan 70.3 and Qujing 70.3 was on the cards.

Bintan 70.3 topped the chart of the hardest conditions I ever had to race in. Starting the race with no expectation at all, wriggling my toes in the sand, watching the mirror like water in front me I just wanted to get my groove back after my line of frustrating injuries. The non wetsuit swim was not as bad as I expected and I ran into transition knowing I need to catch Wade because I cannot allow him to beat me again. Trying to be as fast as I possibly could in transition I got on to Aaron, my Argon, with tunnel vision. I attacked every downhill, even though it is one of my fears I knew my legs had to work harder than they have ever before. The bike course was tricky with lots of turns and twist which made getting lost easy. Every time I could see an athlete ahead I tried to overtake them to make my way to the front. My heart rate started slowing down the last 15km, knowing I was close to home and had no bike mechanics with a safe ride. Crossing the dismount line I was determined to catch Wade as I did not spot him on the course. Heading out onto the run the heat started to effect me . I knew the conditions would be hot and humid but the sweltering dessert like feeling was not what I expected. I literally ran from aid station to aid station to get enough fluids on board and drench my body in water to help keep me cool (not a good idea). After 10km my legs kicked in and I caught Wade on the second loop but then the blisters started. All the water from the sponges and buckets had caused my feet to blister bad but I knew I just needed to keep going through the heat and pain because I was in 1st position and needed to maintain it if I wanted to achieve what I set out to do. Crossing the finish line at Bintan 70.3 was one of the most rewarding finishes I have experienced. Achieving first place in the 25-29 age group was such an honour and I knew China would have expectations especially from my family at home.

Wednesday morning we started our traveling from Bintan making our way to Qujing, China. Coming from pure paradise I knew I needed to get my mind set for the hustle and bustle of the city. Finally, we arrived at our hotel at 3pm, in the gloomiest weather. The rain was pouring and my nerves started playing games with me as it dawned upon me that I might not get to cycle before my second race if the rain persists.

I immediate contacted Claire (my coach) in a fluster and at the same time Richard to see which coach replied first as it was starting to get dark. After going for a swim and a run around the area I felt better as I could get the blood flowing but still had the concern of getting onto my bike to check it for the race. If only I could send the rain towards South Africa where we desperately needed it. At registration Friday we heard all the talk about how the altitude is going to affect our race and the bus shuttles were not the best place to be if you needed to keep a clear mind with all the chatting. The altitude was pressing my lunges with 20 % less oxygen in the air, especially during run pickups and the swim. My body did not feel too bad but not being able to eat foods I was use to I started doubting if I could even do a back to back race. Will my body be strong enough to do this second race? So many questions flooded my mind …and I got sick. Feeling feverish with bad headaches and a sore throat I knew my body was trying to tell me something. Dosing myself with extra vitamins I tried to keep it at bay. Race morning was terrible. I woke up feeling so tired and sick. My body shivering like I had low blood sugar. The nerves were gone but the fear of actually not finishing the second race was wondering in my mind.

The swim start was really confusing as they had the rolling starts but when I saw athletes starting in the sub 30min group swimming breast stroke I knew I needed to get into the water immediately because trying to swim over and around weaker swimmers is too tiring especially at this altitude. I jumped to the front and set off into the water. The first 500m of the swim was great in the reservoir and then I started gasping for air. Starting my swim off so hard made me unexpectedly tired and my lunges could feel the strain. I opted taking a breath every third stroke as I usually do every fifth stroke and it quickly changed to almost every stroke. The swim was really tough trying to get around the breaststroke swimmers and getting kicked really bad on my injured shoulder which worsened my situation. I started swimming backstroke to just get in a deep enough breath and then went into my MM (Monster Monique) zone being so angry with my sore shoulder I was willed to get out of the water.

Running up the stairs the volunteers were amazing helping me zip down my wetsuit. As I exited the tent the familiar sound of Wades voice was so comforting and I thought here is my chance to try stick with him on the bike as far as I could. Out of transition my legs surprisingly felt good for the first 30km then I honestly felt like I blew. I started taking in my nutrition earlier than I usually do and took it a bit easier until I could feel my legs returning. It was an absolute pleasure cycling on full road closure roads with either a policeman or guard at every lamppost to ensure safety. The bike was hard and very hilly but I achieved something I could not really wrap my head around. Heading into T2, not knowing where I was positioned, I knew it would come down to the run. Already having badly blistered feet and toes I knew it would be tough. I went out on the run course giving it my all. Throughout the run my mind shifted in and out of my negativity zone but my unwavering faith in myself pushed me through every kilometre. I started getting into a very comfortable but fast pace when I started cramping …in my feet. It was the most uncomfortable feeling I have experienced in a race with regard to cramping. I started walking aid stations to give my feet a bit of a rest but it did not help much. Seeing Wade in the distance I knew I have to try harder and run even harder. Slowing making my way towards him I was very near to giving up, just wanting to break down and cry right there. As I passed Wade I knew I have a point to prove not only to myself but to every women and little girl out there who has ever doubted their strength and willpower. With tears running down my cheek I continued and the last 6km were so painful but, when that finish line approached, tears of joy started streaming down my face. I did it … two back to back half ironman races, regardless of how chaotic life had been beforehand. This experience has made me grow in all aspects of my life and I have finally got my groove back. I was proud in obtaining 2nd Female in my age group .

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